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MGNREGA workers create real assets, not just ‘dig holes’

Report confirms: MGNREGA workers create real assets, not just 'dig holes'

Catch News 

MGNREGA is considered successful in providing income security to lakhs of rural poor. Last year, 4.8 crore households benefitted from the scheme.

Now, a first-of-its-kind report by the government throws light on what kind of assets were created by these households working under MGNREGA.

Critics of MGNREGA have, so far, argued that the scheme only encourages people to ‘dig holes’, that the work is mostly about planted trees, neither of which directly help the economy in generating more income and jobs. The report clarifies that this is not true. More work was put into water conservation and reviving traditional water bodies than planting trees.

The report also describes some setbacks such as the slow pace of work and regional imbalances. Andhra Pradesh accounts for one-third of all the works.


The real challenge now to ensure that these assets are maintained well.

Here are details from the report. All figures are for the 2015-16 period:

  • 33.9 lakh households benefitted from individual assets created in 2015-16. 4.8 crore households worked. This includes irrigation facilities on land owned by members of scheduled castes and tribes, beneficiaries of land reform, etc. Of this, one-third of the households were for construction of a house. ‘Improving livelihoods’ is the next largest share at 24%, followed by ‘development of fallow/waste lands’ at 7.17 lakh households.
  • 46.57 lakh hectares of land was benefitted from ‘Natural Resource Management’ activities. Of these 27.7 lakh hectares was for water conservation. Over 6 lakh ha of traditional water bodies were revived. Afforestation – which the public considers to be a big job – was at 1 .72 ha (3.6% share) of the works done in the particular category.
  • 29% or almost one-third of the works completed were in rural infrastructure.
  • 27% of the work was under Natural Resource Management. 18% were individual assets and the remaining “common infrastructure for NRLM compliant SHGs” were 21% of the works completed.
  • The assets created are not regionally uniform. For example, for individual assets created, Andhra Pradesh alone accounts for 38% of all assets created in the country. The next highest share, with Uttar Pradesh, is a less than half, at 16% share.
  • Rs 41,520.20 crore were spent in the year.

Also read: Stagnant wages, payment delays & eroding support: Jean Dreze on MGNREGA @10But critics aren’t entirely wrong. The pace of work has been slow.

  • Only 71% of the works have been completed since inception of the scheme.
  • Even within asset types, there is a difference between the share of works taken up versus the share of works completed.
  • In individual assets and rural infrastructure, the difference is stark. 42% of the works taken up were in rural infrastructure, but out of the completed works this category had just a 29% share.
  • Similarly while the ‘individual assets’ category accounts for 34% of the works taken up, its share in the work completed was a mere 18%.


A study published in 2011 by SK Mishra of IIM Indore found that in three drought-prone districts of MP, while MGNREGA played an important role in creating assets, community assets were not taken care of.


“In case of assets created in community land,monitoring happens primarily during the time when assets are created. However, once the assets are created, virtually no body monitors the created assets particularly in community lands. It came across everywhere that once the work is completed, the community does not take the responsibility of its maintenance.

“Officials need to explore the ways to enhance ownership of assets created among the villagers and provision for maintenance of assets created.”

The government has recently changed the way it records the assets created, with a new assets register at the village level to keep better track of the assets being created.

The rural development ministry, which oversees MGNREGA implementation in the country, has teamed with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) for geo-tagging all assets created under the scheme.

On 24 June, the ministry announced that once work on a project is done, the village-level MGNREGA functionary will take a photograph and provide geo-tracking coordinates through the Bhuvan Mobile Platform. Bhuvan is ISRO’s version of Google Earth, with Indian satellites providing detailed images of the country.

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